Woman sick with West Nile; first in county

An unidentified Mesa County woman became the first human case of West Nile virus reported in Mesa County so far this year, Mesa County health officials announced Friday.

The woman experienced fever and continues to suffer from other symptoms typical of the disease, which first started to appear Aug. 8.

Fortunately, the woman has not contracted meningitis or encephalitis as a result of the virus, said Health Department spokeswoman Veronica Daehn Harvey.

Harvey declined to reveal the name and age of the woman or the area of the county where she lives because of patient confidentiality laws.

The incubation period for West Nile virus is five to seven days, which means it usually takes that long for symptoms to appear after a person is infected.

Of the people infected, 80 percent show no symptoms. Symptoms can include headache, fever, body aches, nausea, a rash and swollen lymph nodes. Severe illness such as meningitis and encephalitis can occur.

The first report of a person being infected by West Nile virus surfaced this year about the time such cases normally begin to show up, Harvey said.

“We actually thought that we would start seeing human cases earlier because we did see the mosquitoes start testing positive earlier than normal,” she said.

Mosquitoes tested positive in early June, a month sooner than usual. In mid-July, 50 percent of the mosquito samples collected in Mesa County tested positive for the virus, she said. 

This past week, tests showed that no Culex mosquitoes, carriers of the virus, tested positive, though rainy and windy weather can affect results.

As of Aug. 13, Colorado had 24 confirmed human cases of West Nile. That does not include the positive Mesa County case or any others reported elsewhere after Aug. 13.

Mesa County reported 14 cases in 2012. In 2004, 124 people were reported infected, the highest number ever reported in Mesa County, Harvey said.

The Health Department urges residents to use personal protective measures against West Nile: 

■ Use insect repellent that contains DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

■ Wear long sleeves and pants when you’re in areas where mosquitoes are active.

■ Drain standing water on property.

■ Avoid being outdoors at dusk and dawn; this is when mosquitoes are most active.


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